In 1973, when Papa and Mama reported Ify to me for insisting on going to the university, instead of accepting her admission for Nursing at UNTH, none of us knew that I would marry her. In December 1974, it was clear to me but still unknown to them. On my way for graduation, I branched home and heard that a meeting was held after Church service, that I used the Scripture Union to destroy our customs. Papa and Mama were there. “Will I still, on Thursday, propose to Ify?” I wondered. Arriving at their house at Enugu, Papa told me to ignore the accusation. Mama greeted me cheerily in Yoruba. Their twin reactions gave a fillip to my proposal.
Mama enjoyed what her mates did not, by having a dad that served Christian missionaries, making him to send her to school when her mates were sent to the farm. She also was privileged to have lived with late Mrs. Mgborie Achara, the first educated woman in Ovim and whose husband, Mr. Jonah Achara, was the founding Principal of Okigwe National Grammar School and later, the Agent General of Eastern Nigeria in Britain. It was a rare privilege for Mama to be married in Ovim, as the few educated ladies like her, were married outside our town, and also for Papa, literate like her, and a man of integrity, to marry her! She belonged to a rare class, a woman, whose dad, mum and herself, during the war, were on the Preaching roster of the Methodist Church.
In 1970, after the civil war, most women in our town were contended with doing business in the evening markets, but not Mama. She relocated to Enugu, and started her popular snacks business. She also joined the ECWA, where she was born-again. She was very active. On her way for the Church programme in 1973, she had a motor accident that nearly claimed her life but for God’s intervention. Demonstrating her Christian faith, she refused to participate in village oath taking. It attracted the wrath of the Elders and they threatened her with ostracism but Papa, a good spouse, stood behind her, forcing them to rescind their threat.
“That is what she does,” was Papa’s testimony about Mama’s submission to him. I had arrived Enugu from Lagos that evening, and Mama had also returned from Ovim, where she went to inspect the family building project. “I hope you returned the keys to Ngbavuruike,” Papa asked her. Mama dried up at once and started to apologize for her forgetfulness to do that. Papa, unlike him, was not in the mood to listen to her plea. She blamed herself for that singular mistake but Papa was not impressed. I wondered! That was a grandma, apologizing in that manner! In the morning, Mama was nowhere to be found. I asked Papa where she was. “She has gone home to return the keys,” he said. “Travelling to Ovim to return ordinary keys?” I asked. He answered in the affirmative. I wondered again! “I was impressed how she was apologizing to you last night,” I told him. “That’s what she does,” he told me. May all wives be doing like that! May future wives learn it! May husbands learn to love their wives as Jesus loved the Church and died for it!
In 1983 when Chidy’s dedication service was close, Ify and I did what we had never done and would never do – open altercation! She had suggested that Ovim women be included in our invitation and I objected. Not inviting them had no religious connotation, since they were holding their meetings in our house. It was not to reduce cost since I had bought the things required including a big native goat. Mama was in the house and must have heard it all but she kept quiet, when some mothers would take sides with their daughters. Not Mama! “Brother, I don’t know what you and Sister are discussing but I am hearing your voices from the balcony,” that was Chinenye, my niece. Ify and I were ashamed and we ended the matter though on my position!
Mama once humbled me. My Company, Texaco Overseas Petroleum Oil Company, told me to look for a duplex. Ify and I prayed that it would be close to our house at Falolu Street, where we would continue to be fellowshipping with our brethren, the Onwudimegwus and Dr. Bode Ogunleye. Soon after, we found one and I told Papa. He sent Mama to come and help us in packing there. For delaying in payment by my company, someone rented it. It made me sad. “All things work together for good to them that love God,” Mama quoted Rom. 8:28 to me. “What good thing can come out of missing this house?” I asked myself. Not long after, ‘All things worked together for good’ for us, as God gave us a more prestigious house with servants’ quarters!
An obedient woman, I broke her vow. Mama came for Omugwo in 1980, when Chiemeka was born. To go back to Enugu, I told her that it would be by airplane. She told me her vow never to go to the airport after the death of Uchechi, her younger brother. An Air Force Pilot, he died during his flight with his friend from Lagos to Ibadan in 1966. I told her that as a Christian, she should put that vow behind her. And she did. She never knew that she would be visiting Ngo and Obi in the US regularly. Imagine, if she had kept to her vow!
Mama taught Ify how to feed me. The story started when Chiemeka was born. Mama noticed that I was not eating well. She prepared different types of soup but none of them lifted the veil. When I visited Enugu, she served me fufu and I finished it. She made it a regular meal during my visits. She told Ify that what I need is akpu, not garri! Ify is doing that.
After Papa’s death, Ify and I continued our policy of not sleeping elsewhere in Enugu. During Chinenye’s wedding at Enugu, Pastor Udeze invited us for a night, we obtained Mama’s permission before we obliged. Papa and Mama justified the truth that God joins opposites. Papa, like me and like most men, was domineering while Mama is docile. How would she run the family after his demise? God equipped her with grace, her name. At 76, Papa left, how would she cope, since they were very intimate? God gave her also grace. Some people objected before we celebrated her 70th birthday, fearing that it might hasten her death. We heard once that she was mourning him secretly. We objected, an obedient mum, she took our counsel. She is now 90, living 30 Happy Years after Papa’s death, all by grace, yes, by grace, her name!
On May 10, six days to someone’s 90th birthday, she was videoed, sitting on a stool, doing laundry. The ‘young lady’ reads her Bible without eyeglasses! Most people at her age will be lying down waiting for death. That woman is Mama!
I must appreciate Dr. Uche Onyemachi for contributing in prolonging her life. He will go home, weed the compound and keep the house clean, each time Mama visits home.
For further comment, Please contact: Osondu Anyalechi: 0802 3002-471; [email protected]